I remember staring in wide-eyed wonder the first time I glimpsed Superman on the small screen: The red-caped crusader flying over Metropolis city, one dark curl protruding down from the jet-black hair that framed his perfectly chiseled face. I was mesmerized, enamored, awe struck! “Who is this man and how do I meet him?!?” I wondered. Yes, ladies, those were my thoughts! A hard-wired romantic from the tender age of eight, I was looking for a superhero to sweep me away from the difficulties and loneliness that so many of us encounter on this planet. Oh, if Toronto could have only been Metropolis city, and if I could have only been twenty years older and a news reporter named Lois Lane!
Was it because Superman was always there to protect Lois Lane? Was it because he never let her down no matter what? Was it because of his great love for her and only her? Was it the fact that he was, essentially, indestructible? I would have to admit it was all of these things. It was even the fact that Superman spent his days as the somewhat awkward and clumsy reporter, Clark Kent. Superman’s all too human alter ego seemed to ground the “man of steel” in a way that reminded me that someone as clumsy and self-conscious as myself might actually have a shot with a superhero after all! Superman saved the world and Clark Kent was the humble everyman who took care of the details – I was hooked!
Some years later, I put on my own white cape of sorts and sauntered down the aisle to my very own Superman. I could barely look at my soon to be husband as I walked down the aisle towards him for threat of hysterical tears (of joy of course!). I was overwhelmed by my fortune: a good, strong, kind, courageous, protective, funny, humble man – my very own Super man. I stood before our dear pastor friend and knew that the gift I was being given was not due to anything I had done. For that moment I said vows to the best person I had ever met. I remember realizing then just what the word “grace” actually meant: Something I didn’t really do anything to deserve, something that I had no way of earning – this man was in love me as Clark Kent was with Lois Lane, and I had no explanation for it!
Over the years, I have seen my Superman fly to the moon, stand tall in the face of adversity, display unprecedented reservoirs of strength and forgiveness, act courageously despite the odds, and do it all, with the humility and long-suffering of Clark Kent. We all know a man like this. He could be our husband, our father, our brother, our friend, a teacher, a co-worker, or someone we have only had the honor of meeting once. Today’s article is dedicated to these men. May we honor them, foster them, encourage them, and recognize them when come across them. I have interviewed the superman that I know best, my dear, sweet, strong, patient, forgiving, inspiring, powerful husband Jeff, in the hopes that getting an inside look into the mind of a superman will help all of us better notice the supermen in our midst so we can encourage them to keep up the good fight in their battle to be our heroes and remind them everyday that they don’t have to be afraid to show us their inner Clark Kents when they need to!
Lara: Growing up did you and your friends play superheroes?
Jeff: All the time. I can remember being five or six years old and pretending to be Batman while my buddy pretended to be Spiderman. We loved the superhero movies, cartoons and comic books. We would run around pretending to fight the bad guys, rescue innocent people, and do courageous stunts.
Lara: Why did you and your friends love playing superheroes?
Jeff: I think it came down to wanting to “save” people; being able to save someone, save the universe, being able to protect the good people from the bad guys, being able to conquer evil. It gave us meaning and a purpose. Plus, you have the action and adventure; the rush of fear and excitement you get from taking chances to make a difference. Also, the feeling of triumph and victory when you have defeated the bad guys. You feel like you’re the king of the world!”
Lara. As a man, do you still have the same need for such meaning and purpose?
Jeff: Yes, absolutely. Back then we actually believed that we were those superheroes – we really adopted the personas. I think that this is because the tendencies to want to save people, to need a conquest, to be super strong, to not show fear, to be victorious, are integral to a man’s psyche. A recent study showed that men are more likely to help others than women. That really surprised me, but when I thought about it, I think it reflects how men see the world; we want our lives to count for something. We want our lives to have meaning. This shows up in our need to help others. We see needs and we want to make a difference. We want to make a difference in the lives of others, in the lives of people we love and in the lives of people we are responsible to like our children. We want this purpose but we also want the challenges and adventures that come along with this purpose.
Lara: Is there a danger in wanting to be a superhero to others?
Jeff: Yes and no. The desire to help others, to make a difference, to accomplish great tasks, and seek out new adventures are all great facets of being a man. This is how men change the world; become community leaders, start businesses from scratch, act as good husbands and fathers. We are driven by these needs to do good. But there is a danger in this need to help others, to achieve, to accomplish, to be supermen. Sometimes, we feel like we cannot show we are really just human after all. As a kid, when you would get hurt playing superheroes, you weren’t supposed to show it. The same goes today. Men are pressured to not show their feelings of pain and weakness. But the reality is, we should feel comfortable and be able to show these sides of ourselves. Ninety Six percent of men believe it is ok to cry, but how many of us actually let anyone see us cry? If we don’t show our real feelings, we start to think we really are invincible superheroes. We can become workaholics, neglect our bodies, ignore the pain inside. We keep going, keep achieving, keep taking risks but eventually, if we don’t do some self care and open up about our struggles, we will fall hard.
Lara: What do you think men today would say is their Kryptonite?
Jeff: Physical health is the first Kryptonite that comes to mind. When I was a kid playing superheroes, flying around and jumping off things, I didn’t realize I had to be careful until I broke a couple of bones. It is really physical health that reminds men that they are human and need to be careful. A lot of men have tough minds and they will just keep going and going, it is often our bodies that show us we are still human and need to be wise and pace ourselves. High blood pressure, sore backs, stressed out stomachs, lack of energy, these are the things that remind men they are not invincible. The bottom line is that if you don’t realize that you are not invincible, your body will eventually give you a rude awakening. Men need to remember to be balanced. The second Kryptonite for men would be being in situations that are out of our control. Men are fixers. When we face something we can’t control it reminds us that we are only human and limited. As a man who believes in God, this is where my faith comes in, reminding me that God walks with me everyday, is in control of my life, and has the best intentions for me and my family even if I don’t understand everything that is happening at the moment. Finally, I think failure and rejection is the third Kryptonite for men. Admitting that we failed at something, that something cannot be done, that what we are doing is not good enough – that is a hard pill to swallow! It is hard for men to face their limitations but it is important that they do. It is healthy and humbling to know that you cannot do it all and have it all.
Lara: Who would you rather take on a twilight fly above Toronto, Lois Lane or Wonder Woman?
Jeff: I would have to say Lois Lane. She was a strong woman, she fought the bad guys, she had moxy, and she was only a flesh and blood woman. And even though she was a strong woman, she still needed Superman. I like a strong woman but not a, seemingly, invincible woman like Wonder woman. I don’t want to be Superman all the time, so I don’t want a Wonder woman 24/7. I think Wonder woman and I would be wrestling all the way to the moon trying to outdo one another and that is exhausting!
Lara: What do you want to hear before you go to sleep at night: “Good night Superman or good night Clark Kent?”
Jeff: Goodnight Superman – of course!